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2014 NBA Playoff Race: Knicks pass Hawks, Cavaliers closing

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Atlanta's loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night combined with New York's win over Brooklyn has the Hawks on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the first time this season.

Kevin C. Cox

The race truly begins now but at this point we can't be sure what the Atlanta Hawks have left in the tank. Atlanta's 105-92 loss on Wednesday night was their seventh defeat in their last eight games and combined with a New York win has the Hawks on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the first time this season. Atlanta maintains a one-game advantage in the loss column but is now percentage points behind in the standings.

Team W L pct GB
8. New York Knicks 33 43 .434 20.0
9. Atlanta Hawks 32 42 .432 20.0
10. Cleveland Cavaliers 31 45 .408 22.0

Cleveland has won two straight and has closed the gap on Atlanta and New York to within two games. According to Hollinger's playoff odds the Hawks are still a 63.6 percent pick to make the playoffs as the eighth seed. However, if you have been watching this team with any regularity of late then it may be hard for you to see where the wins are going to come from.

Date Opponent Time TV
Fri Apr 4 vs Cleveland 7:30 SportSouth
Sun Apr 6 @ Indiana 6:00 SportSouth/NBA TV
Tue Apr 8 vs Detroit 7:30 SportSouth
Wed Apr 9 vs Boston 7:30 SportSouth
Fri Apr 11 @ Brooklyn 7:30 SportSouth
Sat Apr 12 vs Miami 7:30 SportSouth
Mon Apr 14 vs Charlotte 7:30 SportSouth
Wed Apr 16 @ Milwaukee 8:00 ESPN

Four of Atlanta's remaining eight games will be played against opponents with a losing record beginning on Friday against Cleveland. The Hawks also have games remaining against the Pistons, Celtics and Bucks and those games will be crucial if they really want to be a part of the postseason.

The Knicks are playing for their playoff lives and in some respects their jobs but they also face a much tougher schedule to close out the season. New York has just six games remaining and that one game lead in the loss column is big for Atlanta at this point.

Date Opponent Time TV
Fri Apr 4 vs Washington 7:30 League Pass
Sun Apr 6 @ Miami 1:00 ABC
Fri Apr 11 @ Toronto 7:00 League Pass
Sun Apr 13 vs Chicago 7:30 League Pass
Tue Apr 15 @ Brooklyn 8:00 TNT
Wed Apr 16 vs Toronto 8:00 League Pass

All of New York's six remaining games will be played against Eastern Conference playoff teams that are currently above .500. Again they have the toughest road but at this point it is more about Atlanta putting together a complete effort to win games than it is about the Knicks.

You can't look at this situation without touching on what is at stake for both clubs. The Knicks have no picks available for the upcoming draft so if they miss the playoffs the result is a long uneasy summer for many players and coaches. Atlanta is looking at a pick in the ballpark of 15 if they make the playoffs and something just outside the Top 10 if the miss. The Hawks have shown zero interest in tanking this season and I would suspect that the coaching staff would dismiss such a notion immediately. However, lets just say at this point the Knicks are probably the more desperate of the two franchises.